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NFC Tap to Pay may only come to newer Windows 10 Mobile phones

Microsoft plans to introduce NFC Tap to Pay on Windows 10 Mobile with its Wallet 2.0 app, which is now in internal testing. Even though it's not been announced or teased, we still managed to successfully use it to make purchases — this feature is nearly complete and ready for the comprehensive Anniversary Update due this summer.

Since Microsoft has not formerly announced NFC Tap to Pay and Wallet 2.0 for Windows 10 Mobile, it's up to us to piece together how this works. New evidence suggests that only certain phones may get the feature due to certification standards required by credit card companies like MasterCard.

Microsoft Wallet 2.0 and Host Card Emulation

Back in 2015 at the WinHEC conference in China, Microsoft announced that Host Card Emulation (HCE) was coming to Windows 10 Mobile, so there is a very strong reason to believe that is what is being used in Microsoft Wallet 2.0.

HCE works by having mobile payment providers securing the credit card information on their servers instead of on the device itself. This system relies on your bank generating a new "virtual" credit card number that is associated with mobile payments and your credit card.

Each new payment has a generated, one-time use card number, and this process is often referred to as "tokenization". This system adds a layer of protection between your real account and your temporary mobile payment one. Wallet 2.0 also uses your location data with each transaction to help prevent fraud.

While HCE relies on an encrypted connection to the cloud to generate the one-time use number, users can have a limited number of "off-line" generated codes on their device in case there is no internet connection immediately available.

HCE is the preferred payment method by banks and vendors as there are no proprietary elements involved. Since HCE is the basis of Android Pay (since Android 4.4) it has been in use for some time and it is one reason why Windows 10 Mobile users should be able to use NFC Tap to Pay at all the same locations as Android Pay and Apple Pay.

MasterCard, Visa, and AMEX all support HCE, but not all individual banks do as of yet, which is why some of my credit cards were not accepted (As I note in the original article, those same cards are also not accepted by Apple Pay, which uses a Secure Element-based system). In other words, while Visa may support HCE, the bank that issued your card may not.

Phone models might matter

Adding a twist to the Microsoft Wallet and NFC Tap to Pay puzzle, not all current Windows phones may support the feature. It is not so much that Microsoft may not allow it, but rather HCE devices need to be approved and certified by credit card companies like MasterCard.

In a real world test, friend of the site Jeremy Sinclair ("snickler" on XDA Forums) installed the Wallet 2.0 app on his Lumia 1520 running Windows 10 Mobile build 14361. While the app installed correctly on the Lumia 1520, it did not offer up the Tap to Pay feature. Instead, it just gave the option for Loyalty Cards.

Coincidently, Microsoft MVP Stanislav Z. pointed out to me MasterCard's approved list of HCE-enabled devices. Microsoft Lumias are listed, but only some Lumias are approved, those include:

  • Lumia 640 XL (non-LTE)
  • Lumia 650
  • Lumia 650 Dual SIM
  • Lumia 950
  • Lumia 950 Dual SIM
  • Lumia 950 XL
  • Lumia 950 XL Dual SIM

All other Lumias are not approved, and it seems to involve those devices' NFC firmware and overall age. Phones with NFC firmware 08.01.22 will work, while those with the older NFC firmware 1.xx will not.

So it's not a surprise that when Jeremy tested Wallet 2.0 on a Lumia 1520 Tap to Pay was not enabled — that phone is also not on the approved MasterCard HCE list.

Lumia phones on the MasterCard contactless approved NFC Mobile Devices list

Lumia phones on the MasterCard contactless approved NFC Mobile Devices list

Just as interesting, HCE approval also has expirations dates set for Fall 2018 on those approved Lumias. It is also worth noting that the same approved/not-approved spread and expiration dates apply to all Android phones too. However, Android criterion is related to having at least Android 4.4 or in some cases 5.0 and higher installed.

Getting murky

Without clarification from Microsoft, we cannot be certain if all current Lumias will get NFC Tap to Pay. It could mean that Microsoft will have to (a) update the NFC firmware on those devices and (b) if MasterCard will approve those devices.

It's also not evident if the chipsets on those phones can even support HCE either, making more of a hardware issue than a firmware one. It is likely Microsoft does not write the firmware for the NFC chips, but is instead written by the chip supplier — just as some Bluetooth hardware can be updated to 4.1 and 4.2, while others cannot.

Using NFC Tap to Pay on the Lumia 950 with Wallet 2.0

Using NFC Tap to Pay on the Lumia 950 with Wallet 2.0

MasterCard's approval sheet is dated for June 2016, but like all things related to testing and adoption, it is regularly updated as new devices hit the scene. The not-yet-released HP Elite x3 is not listed, for example. However, I would be shocked if that phone does not have approved NFC firmware when it launches. The patterns, so far, seems clear: newer phones are accepted, older hardware is not. This should be no surprise.

The larger point here is that banking certification of HCE phones is a real obstacle that needs to be addressed by all phone manufacturers for NFC payments. It is not an across-the-board situation.

Banking security is a very tight and heavily regulated industry and it involves very stringent requirements to secure your information. HCE security flaws with NFC firmware that could be exploited are a serious concern (though one that has yet to be a problem), so it makes sense there would be an approval process with standards.

Whether any of this holds once the Windows 10 Anniversary Update hits remains to be seen. Phones that are slated to get the update may also get the right bits to allow NFC payments, and frankly, our testing is at best incomplete and limited at this time. But at least we've got a better idea of where compatibility may stand for older Windows 10 Mobile devices.

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

161 Comments
  • With Microsoft and older devices, it's better to assume to worst..
  • But going off the article....this isn't their fault
  • Perhaps true, but not necessarily. Where these is a will, there is a way. And, conversely, as we saw with Surface RT, Windows Phone 7.8, and others, the opposite is also true.
  • "Where these is a will, there is a way."
    Technology is not nearly that simple. Hardware is hardware and the NFC chips (and the company who makes them) do not have approved firmware or the chips themselves are not capable of meeting 2016 HCE standards, no one will force it. This is banking security, not something Microsoft can just hack around.
  • If Lumia 640 can support it, then Lumia 730/735/830 can do it too..
  • You, read, article.
  • But it doesn't. 640XL is on the list; 640 isn't...
  • Thank God my 640XL is supported(hopefully).
  • Well, it's just not on the list, that's not a yes or a no
  • Both have the same SoC inside (Snapdragon 400 - MSM8226).
  • This is what I don't understand. Why would the 640XL be on the list but not the 640? And why only the non-LTE version? Other than firmware, they are the same. Same chipsets. Makes no sense, other than "Microsoft wanted to test the technology on a small subset of devices, so these are the ones they requested approval for HCE list." That's my hope, at least.
  • That's where there is room for adjustment. Some phones may get the firmware, others may be in testing right now, etc. My larger point was to say 'Just because you have NFC and Windows 10 Mobile doesn't mean you get NFC HCE payments automatically'. There's a process involved, standards to meet, etc.
  • https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/nfc/2015/05/01/how-to-write-an-nfc-host... • Windows Phone 10 with NFC HCE support (730/830/640/640XL …) SO why 830,730 left?
  • Also according to this RBC article from late 2014: http://www.rbc.com/newsroom/news/2014/20141218-host-card.html "HCE allows clients to use any near field communication (NFC) enabled Android phone to pay at the point of sale with the RBC Mobile app anywhere in the world.". "... use ANY NFC enabled Android phone..."  and that was back in 2014. So since Windows 10 mobile uses the same HCE as Android, then ANY Windows Mobile phone with NFC released since late 2014 should also work, right? If the supported firmware was available back in 2014, then why wouldn't Microsoft make sure it was included in their phones when released?
  • Just proud of my friend Ahmer, hence mentioning this. He had a major role in developing Apple Pay. One of the few who initiated the project.
  • I get that, Daniel. But that doesn't change the fact that Microsoft DECIDED not to support older products in the past when there was no technical or hardware reason they couldn't.
  • Meanwhile iOS 10 is comming to iPhone 5... Nokia Lumia 920's rival.
  • And the people that "upgrade" to it will be complaining, just like they do here.
  • Will the iPhone 5 support ApplePay ? Oh, I forgot, it does not have NFC chip...
  • You will not get sound through a cable if there is no place to input the cable. Posted from Windows Central for XL
  • Unless this Will guy shows up. He'll find a way. He's magic. ;)
  • 640 XL, Nice, glad to hear that!
  • Should Apple be criticized because my iPod Touch, my iPad, that old iPhone 1 I used to use does not support Apple Pay? Shouldn't we assume the worst of Apple for not bringing Apple Pay to those devices? Shouldn't we criticize and assume the worst of Samsung since they do not support Google Pay on the Samsung Galaxy 1? Why should Microsoft receive all the criticism for not supporting their payment system on devices that does not contain the appropriate hardware to support secure transactions?
  • Stop that nohone, you're thinking again! :)
  • It is a bad habit I need to kick.
  • i don't know... maybe because lumia 920 was abandoned 2 years ago while iPhone 5 is getting iOS 10.
  • Right, and they just dropped support for the 4s (the gen before)... knowing that how well do you honestly think iOs 10 is going to run on the 5?
  • Ok, you have a point, but the hardware and firmware required was available back in 2014 (see my other post above), so why would MS not install it, or allow the firmware to be updated?
  • The only way to fix this is to replace these phones. So no, there might be will, but a way is most certainly missing.
  • If you read the article the point is it is a messy world in the bank sector so unless you are apple or samsung you are going to have big problems until the whole thing is streamlined somehow.
  • But what about the regular Lumia 640??? It came out literally at the same time as the XL :(
  • What about the 640 XL with LTE??
  • Yes. I have 640xl lte and that's a bit disappointing if true. Posted from my o2 joggler.
  • There's no NFC on the regular 640. I'm more curious as to why the LTE XL isn't supported.
  • There is NFC on 640.:)
  • I checked on MS's website, there is in fact NFC on the regular one. However, I never found a setting for it anywhere, and I'm pretty sure a colleague from work with a 930 has it.
  • Settings -> Devices -> NFC
  • It's not showing on my 640 DS. I have Default Camera Bluetooth Mouse USB
  • It seems NFC is exclusive to the LTE variants of the 640 (the normal one at least, haven't checked on the XL).
  • Exactly. I have the 640 DS LTE and it does support nfc.
  • In the last article you said you got it onto a UK phone....Was that the 1520 in question here? If so...there could be hope it works in the UK right away too. Any chance WC can get this onto a UK 950/XL or confirm if the UK phone mentioned in the previous article was one of the supported devices?
  • We installed the app on a UK phone (Lumia 950), there were no Payment options available. Same experience as the 1520, just Loyalty Cards. That reinforces the idea that there will be regional restrictions as well as hardware ones.
  • Thanks for confirming, it'll make sense if it's only US to begin with but like you say in the article we won't know for sure about any of this until it's released so I'll keep my fingers and toes crossed for a UK release in 2016.
  • Thanks for confirming, it'll make sense if it's only US to begin with but like you say in the article we won't know for sure about any of this until it's released so I'll keep my fingers and toes crossed for a UK release in 2016.
  • The good news is HCE is mostly on the bank side, meaning Microsoft really does not have any "deals" to make with banks or vendors. In theory, this should be able to roll out to common HCE areas, but Microsoft may start slow to pilot it and get feedback.
  • Does this mean that UK banks that support Android Pay should in theory support this solution as soon as MS release it here? Or would there be a way for banks to block a specific HCE app?
  • From the article it looks like the situation is not very clear and it is a bit of a far west right now.
  • Why Android gets the benefit here?? There is no specific hardware required.
  • I was really hoping to get this on my ATT Nokia Lumia 1520, but I'm excited for everyone else who at least will have the pleasure of using this!
  • We in India are also keeping all our fingers and toes crossed using yoga.Om.
  • Definitely region-specific. I know some people in northern Europe have had NFC payments enabled since day 1. Different countries have different requirements. And when it comes to banking, the US is so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to adoption of newer banking standards, it's pretty shameful. Take, for example, the smart card credit card technology that's sloooowly being adopted in the US... that technology was introduced elsewhere in the world about 20 years ago. Online banking was commonplace elsewhere in the world long before even Internet access was widely available, yet online banking only really started taking off in the early 2000's in the US. Posted from Windows Central for Windows 10
  • I have a UK dual sim willing to be a Guinea Pig :D ** 950xl and loving it !!
  • Isn't that list of phone also the list of phones that can ONLY be found with Windows 10 and not Windows 8/8.1? They are also the newest ones and it could be they have only sumitted those for testing.
  • Incorrect. The Lumia 1520, for instance, is listed as Windows 10 already on the MC HCE list. It's not the OS, it's the NFC firmware that installed. It remains to be seen if Windows 10 Mobile updates (future) ones will (1) Be newer, compatible firmware (2) If older NFC chips are even approved for HCE by credit card companies
  • it was aproved in the past with Softcard
  • And what about the Samsung Ativ S which is on WP8.1.1 and clearly shows in the NFC parameters : "NFC Tap to Share" AND "NFC Tap to Pay" ?? He has it so, will it actually work ?
  • No Samsung Windows phones are approved either.
  • So, is there any specification details of NFC chips for Lumias? I mean, we only get to know whether there is NFC available in a phone or not.. We don't get to know the NFC chip details.
  • Isn't the 640 XL (non-LTE) an 8.1 phone though.
  • I wish all payment systems were standardize so that iOS, Android and W10M devices have access to the same banks, credit cards, etc.  Right now, it is very hit of miss.
  • Right now in Italy we even have problems with debit cards acceptance and credit cards too, it looks like we are going backwards :/
  • We will see. In The Netherlands we don't use much creditcards. We use bankcards. But my bank ABN-AMRO still has a WP8.1 app and not likely to bring updates. So, in the near future I don't see Tap to Pay happening
  • You mean debit card. ING also still has a WP8.1 app but for a bank to support HCE is independent of their support for their own proprietary app. HCE is also a more universal thing. I assume that if a bank supports Android Pay it most likely also works for Microsoft Tap to Pay or at least it would require minimal effort for the bank to also enable it for Windows Mobile.
  • Only the 640 XL without LTE???? What?
  • Well, so far. This list is for June 2016. Things can change. As to why some phones are approved and others are not (with older firmware), I have no idea. They could be in testing for all we know. I don't want to necessarily tell people they won't get NFC tap to pay, but I do want to highlight how this is not just as easy as flipping a switch, or installing an app either.
  • Inbox me wallet 2.0 ;) ;) Message delivered by Cortana's Lumia 950XL Dual SiM
  • Ditto
  • Thanks for sharing
  • 830 anyone?
  • Good try mist likely no Message delivered by Cortana's Lumia 950XL Dual SiM
  • can they push a firmware update to the phones?
  • Maybe, assuming it exists. I see no reason to believe that Microsoft touches NFC firmware. They build the OS that hooks into common NFC standards and APIs. It could be something they have to pay the chip vendor for, then submit for testing internally. Finally, like radio basebands they would likely need a carrier-approved firmware update since they are now touching the radios of the device, which falls outside of the OS. Of course, this is conjecture on my part based on current experience and knowledge of how this works and I could be incorrect on this for a number of points. I'm just laying the groundwork in case this doesn't happen for all devices on day one.
  • Well it would help the platform and make the users happy.
  • Is an nfc firmware update touching the same radio stack as the cellular radio?
  • We don't really know, but my hunch is it's not part of the OS either.
  • Lets pray they do it right like google and all nfc phones could enjoy
  • Alas @the 830 well not a killer feature by the way, but MS this is not fair
  • I don't see how it is not fair unless Microsoft sold the Lumia 830 with the promise that you could do NFC Tap to Pay on it, which I do not believe they ever said. The only reason any of this seems unfair is because I'm telling you information based on leaked software. Nothing is final, but I do want people to understand that NFC payments are not a simple "app thing".
  • The point is Microsoft does not promise anything and we still suport it, maybe just maybe if it could through us a left over bone we might be a little satisfied, by the way we are holding the strings here, or maybe I am wrong
  • Wallet 2.0 can hardly wait to get my hands on it
  • It can be done in old phones like Softcard did.
  • Softcard is a different system. It is not HCE it is Secure-elements where you need to use a carrier-approved and provided SIM card in your device. I would not compare the two at all, let alone saying "it can be done". You do not know that at all.
  • You right, but I have seen people with old Androids using wallet without issues. I hope they find a way to make it work.
  • I had to get a special SIM to make Softcard work. It was a carrier based solution, not a built-in one .
  • Remember the BS MS told us about the scenario of not doing the same with W8.x to other versions of the os that they did with W7.x to W8, well guess what the scenario is right now!!!
  • I'm still trying to decipher your sentence.
  • its pays to always have the latest phones........
  • The Lumia 640 also has NFC firmware 08.01.22 but is not approved.
  • Where do you look to see the NFC firmware on your phone? Posted from Windows Central for Windows 10
  • I got it from the excel file form the MasterCard site linked in the article.
  • Excellent article, very informative and very helpful. Thank you Dan.
  • I'm ok with this, I upgraded to 950 & 950xl when they came out.
  • just regedit your lumia to show up as 950 XL, all problems solved, android phones only criteria is OS number so its clearly a software thing
  • so tap to pay will still work on wp8 even without wallet2 support?  
  • i have always hope that the nfc payment could came to my country, but just a few debit cards can do it(we almost never used credit card) , and even fewer machines have implemented the nfc and the phone payment doesn't seems that it will arrive soon ... sad
  • Aaaaand wallet is just as useless as it has always been. Except for the new hardware getting the functionality nothing has changed.
  • So I got excited for nothing on this matter .. I won`t change my Lumia 930 just for this tough ...
  • I will be absolutely shocked if the HP Elite X3 doesnt have NFC certification to tap for purchases like some of the Lumia phones mentioned in this article.
  • Eu to bem troste
  • I, for one, am hoping July comes with both the Anniversary Update and a firmware update for the 640 that fixes both HEC support/approval and T-Mobile WiFi Calling... But I'm not holding no breath.
  • Hopefully I'll be able to use it here in Sweden soon, but also, I need to find some stores here that supports it xD
  • I've downloaded the xls document and had a look at the data. Looks like the only approved devices show a "min os version" of 10, while the rest are on 8/8.1. I bet once they get their L640 et alia upgraded, they'll begin approving the rest of them.
  • My phone is not on the list. This gives me a great excuse to get a new phone. Hopefully manufacturers take note of limited phones able to use Tap to Pay and build some W10 phones.
  • All 1.5%
  • No, they will be supporting something like 0.001% of the Windows Phone devices... even better :-\ Leave it to Microsoft to be dispointment on Windows Phone
  • Reading is fundamental.
  • You should learn it...
  • Ahhhh, that would be clever(ish) if I were the one ignoring certain points made in the article.  
  • Mostly concerned that this will be US only for years to come, even in UK we don't see many Microsoft services live though they are advertised such as I Heart Radio in Groove which when I reported it to them they said that I should contact Xbox team which Xbox team then said I should contact Groove and gave up at the end.
  • Just for clarification - I am in the US and I don't see iHeartRadio in Groove.   This also doesn't seem like a Microsoft Service, technically.  It seems as though it's a feature that other services can latch on to, so it would be up to your bank to support the underlying technology. At least, that's how I'm interpreting it.  There's also the possibility of a more narrow rollout to see if it works properly, so if it's US first, I wouldn't panic.  
  • You can't download and install this iHeartRadio app in US? https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/store/apps/iheartradio/9wzdncrfj223
  • I can, but it's not integrated into my Groove app. Is that what you were saying?
  • Exactly my point; We are unable to install iHeartRadio here in UK however they still advertise it in Groove as what appears to be an integration however unable to install the app to test it, assuming you have Groove pass perhaps you can test this based on the information at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/groove-iheartradio however this will not resolve our issue in UK which are failing to use the services/apps that Microsoft announces
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